EDITORIAL:  Ireland's Fundraising Woes Leave Two Major GOP Candidates for Governor

Because the Democratic field for Governor this year has so many heavy hitters with built-in pockets of support and funding, we have little reason to doubt that all of

 that party's big contenders--Tomblin, Perdue, Thompson, and Tennant--will have sufficient resources and name recognition to put on at least some kind of statewide campaign.

But on the Republican side of the aisle, it's a different situation altogether.

With the possible exception of Betty Ireland, who had one term as a statewide official as Secretary of State, none of the GOP's candidates have statewide name recognition.  But her career in state politics has been over since early 2009.  More importantly, Ireland has a more crucial concern right now: fundraising.

When Ireland won her one and only statewide race in 2004, she bested 88 year old Ken Hechler, who had already been roughed up considerably regarding his age by his primary opponent,Monongalia County State Senator Mike Oliverio.  Because Oliverio had done such a number on Hechler in the Democratic Primary that year, Ireland only had to spend about $50,000 to finish the job on Hechler in that year's General Election.

In short, Ireland has never had to raise big funds before--and it shows.

Because despite being the GOP candidate who announced first and who has been out on the hustings the longest, Ireland can't seem to drum up the kind of financial support she needs to win.

Case in point:  reports out of Parkersburg say that Ireland's fundraiser at the tony Blennerhassett Hotel only netted ten attendees.  Republicans statewide might see their chances for a crack at retaking the Governorship fading away if Ireland is their party's nominee.  After all, Earl Ray Tomblin is raising a lot more money than ten donors at the Blennerhassett Hotel.  We suspect State Treasurer John Perdue is, too.

If a Republican can't fund a serious statewide campaign in a 2-1 Democratic state, what are the odds of their success?

That leaves the Republicans two candidates, both new to the statewide campaign hustings, both able to contribute a significant chunk of change to their own campaigns, at least through the Republican Primary on May 14th.

They are Bill Maloney, Morgantown businessman, and State Senator Clark Barnes, Elkins businessman.  Both men have impressed political observers by their commitment to put up their own money, even as they seek funding from donors. Senator Barnes has indicated a willingness to spend $250,000 of his own money, if necessary, and Maloney is said to have loaned his campaign a similar amount.

West Virginia is called a "small state" until one starts to actually travel across it's length and breadth, as these candidates do during election season. West Virginia has a good bit of ground to cover for anyone running a statewide campaign for Governor, especially on such short notice as this Special Election. There's just no way around the costs of a statewide campaign effort, and if a candidate hopes to reach the voters needed to win, they need substantial funds.

This begs the question why some people are running for Governor when they know that funding is not going to be there for them, either from their own bank accounts or from checks sent from a host of well-heeled friends.   Are they naive?  Fooling others as well as themselves?

Some suggest that Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia is running for Governor to set himself up for a cheaper statewide race for Attorney General next year. Similarly, some suggest that Jackson County Delegate Mitch Carmichael  is running for to heighten his profile for a Congressional run someday.

This is all well and good, but let's be clear.  "Running for Governor" is a nice thing to say, but it's akin to an average West Virginian proudly announcing to his buddies that he's going out to buy a new Rolls Royce.   Some well-meaning friends may smile and nod, while others roll their eyes. But all know that it's absurd--and a bit grandiose.

Unless one of the other candidates hits the lottery very soon, this race appears to be between Maloney and Barnes.  May the best of these two candidates win.